Vole announced GitHub Copilot's general availability a few months ago at $10/month, but it was slamed for using the code written by other people without their permission, now a class action is shaping up to be a test case for AI software generally.
The lawsuit has been initiated by Matthew Butterick, who is a programmer, author, and lawyer. He is being represented by the Joseph Saveri Law Firm from California. Together, they are claiming that Microsoft is engaging in open-source software piracy by using billions of lines of code written by millions of programmers under various licenses including MIT, GPL, and Apache. The defendants named in the lawsuit are GitHub, Microsoft, and its technology partner OpenAI.
Butterick claims that Microsoft has violated a number of requirements for using this code including attribution, GitHub's policies, the California Consumer Privacy Act, and DMCA 1202 - which "forbids the removal of copyright-management information".
But Butterick has a bigger target. He notes that this will be the first class-action case in the US challenging the training and output of AI systems.
"It will not be the last. AI systems are not exempt from the law. Those who create and operate these systems must remain accountable. If companies like Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI choose to disregard the law, they should not expect that we the public will sit still. AI needs to be fair & ethical for everyone. If it’s not, then it can never achieve its vaunted aims of elevating humanity. It will just become another way for the privileged few to profit from the work of the many."
Joseph Saveri Law Firm Joseph Saveri added that the case represents the first major step in the battle against intellectual-property violations in the tech industry arising from artificial-intelligence systems.
"The work of open-source programmers is being exploited. But this will not be the last community of creators who are affected by AI systems. Our firm is committed to standing up for these creators and ensuring that companies developing AI products are held accountable under the law."